Where do the years go? After turning 39 earlier this week, I still have most of my hair, though a gray strand or two has joined the fray. I feel young at heart, but my occasional aching joints and bones serve as a daily reminder that I'm not a kid anymore.

I certainly don't feel like hanging up my jester cap anytime soon. However, after coming to terms with the aging process and my own mortality, I've found myself pondering eventual retirement.

After all, that's something you have to plan for if you want to do it right. I live in the retiree hotbed of Florida, and I see the differences between the planned and the planned-nots every day. I see the active octogenarian, merrily teeing it up at the golf course. Yet I also see his high school buddy flipping burgers or sweeping theme parks because he just couldn't make ends meet after retiring.

There's no shame in working at any age. I feel more confident placing my fast food order with someone who is 80 than someone who is 18. The only sad part is that some folks either take too long to start planning for their retirement or plan so poorly that they just don't have enough.

I don't want that to be me. I don't want my Retirement Party to be followed by my Coming Out of Retirement Party a few years later. I could do far worse than close out my Golden Years as a gray-haired fry cook at McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), but I'd rather own shares of the world's largest burger chain -- a solid grower with a 2% dividend yield -- and place my order for a healthier salad as I take my eventual grandkids in for their Happy Meals.

So I decided that I should check out Robert Brokamp's Rule Your Retirement newsletter service to see if I'm on my way to retiring on my terms -- and staying retired on those terms.

The 10-year plan
Since we've been taking a look at 2016 lately, I figured it would be timely to see if I would be ready to retire in 10 years. I went through the eight-lesson How to Plan the Perfect Retirement Web-based seminar that is available for free to all of Robert's subscribers. It was a sobering experience.

Going into this experiment, I knew that retiring at 49, before my IRA withdrawals and Social Security distributions start kicking in, was going to be a challenge. I'm a modest guy with a modest wife, and we abide by the "Live Below Your Means" credo. My two sons are a different story, but we've still got time to raise them right. However, going by my current savings, and factoring in the magic of compounded returns for another 10 years, I would be retiring at 49 -- and scraping off gum at the local theme park by 50.

If you will qualify to start pulling money (penalty free) out of your pensions, IRAs, and Social Security come 2016, you will be in much better shape -- but only if you save and plan accordingly. And do it now.

It's all about the Callaways
I am blessed to live a reasonable walk away from three magnificent golf courses. I even serve on a Coral Gables committee, granting me a lack of greens fees during certain parts of the day. Alas, I don't play golf. But that hasn't stopped me from dreaming about my first purchase when I eventually do retire. What am I going to buy? A shiny set of Callaway golf clubs. Sure, I'll be taking those oversized titanium beauties out to a driving range or two first, so I don't truly embarrass myself. But I don't want to buy them until I'm ready. I don't want to pony up the cash for a Callaway Big Bertha if she's going to be heading off to the pawn shop a few months later.

Rule Your Retirement isn't going to make my golf game any better. It's just going to make it possible.

Living in the watery oasis of this fine peninsular state, a boat would be a nice big-ticket retirement goal, though I have always been partial to recreational vehicles. My older sister and her husband financed $70,000 for a new RV last year. It's great, but they really can't afford it. If I choose to finance something on land or at sea, it will be for keeps. More than likely I'll ditch the motorized toys and instead embrace my passion for travel in more convenient ways.

Perhaps that's why I've been looking at many of the stocks behind my inspiration lately. How cool would it be to beef up my retirement nest egg by buying into the companies that may claim my cash when I do reach the point where I'm able to retire?

I love a good cruise, and I'd love to be able to sail away in off-peak periods. It would be sweet if I would be able to afford the berths in my Golden Years as a direct result of buying into the leading players such as Royal Caribbean (NYSE:RCL) and Carnival (NYSE:CCL) today.

On the other hand, if the landlubber in me takes over, maybe I will be able to buy into some reasonably priced timeshare re-sales by acquiring shares of vacation interval marketers today. Sunterra (NASDAQ:SNRR) has had a little turnover at the top lately, but it's hard not to like the popular outfit that is 318,000 owner families strong. Bluegreen (NYSE:BXG) is only half as big, but it has a great collection of properties -- including a newly announced spot in Williamsburg, Va. Then we have major hoteliers like Hilton (NYSE:HLT) and Marriott (NYSE:MAR) that run some of the more popular vacation ownership clubs in the business.

It's all very tempting, but I think I'll stick to my more modest goal of owning a set of Callaway clubs. I like to keep my goals attainable. Then again, now that I've dedicated myself in 2006 to at least improve my retirement outlook by 2016, you never know what may happen.

So I'll take Robert's newsletter service to heart. I'll devour the monthly issues, the perpetual community updates, and the free webinars. I'll be ready, because even though they don't sell chewing gum in the Magic Kingdom, I've seen what careless families can do while on vacation. I want to avoid chasing after them with a broom, a scooper, and the heavy burden of a broken dream.

You can join Rick in planning for your retirement -- and ruling it if you're already there -- before it owns you. Rule Your Retirement will help. There's no obligation to subscribe, and the free trial grants you access to all that the service has to offer. Hurry, time's ticking (my gray hairs are here to prove it).

This article was originally published Jan. 5, 2006. It has been updated.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz didn't exactly feel ageless at his 20-year high school reunion last year. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. Not yet. The Fool has a disclosure policy.